For those unfamiliar with the Welsh Hip Hop scene the name Rob Picton aka Joe Blow (JB) may not ring a bell, however this multifaceted artist has been making waves in music for quite some time and will no doubt leave an indelible impression on anyone listening to his latest EP “Alpha Ego”, a swiftly dispatched punchy little boom bap barrage on Bard Picasso Records. The Cardiff based rapper/DJ has been involved in the South Wales underground for the better part of two and a half decades, this not only includes contributions to Hip Hop music but also the DnB scene, a genre he has been involved in since he was a 16 year old DJ playing out at the legendary Hippo Club, “a scruffy building on Penarth Road that was the centre of the universe if you were into dance music in the ’90s”. Joe is bolstered together with Mr Substance for the first time on this four track collaborative release, the latter being responsible for all of the production duties and has been described as ‘one of the greatest boom bap producers in the UK with “drums to die for”‘. Prior to putting out Alpha Ego, there have been various noteworthy releases from JB such as Smoking Skills his debut release, followed by two albums Dead Man Smoking and The Smoking Ace. There were also two EPs he released with DJ Stagga (Optimas Prime) before he sadly passed away in 2020, oh Geez and Silver Bullett, Alpha Ego is dedicated to the memory of Stagga. Joe has garnered critical acclaim from various BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra major players, the likes of MistaJam, Ace & Vis, Bethan Elfyn, Jen Long, Adam Walton, to name a few and is a founding member of the Barry based Hip Hop supergroup Squid Ninjaz.
Clearly there is a lot going on here but how did the latest entry measure up to the vast back catalogue, we had a listen..
The EP opens with ‘Radio’, featuring a classic sample taken from Al Hirt’s ‘Harlem Hendoo’, Joe had production input on this track as it is one of his “favourite songs of all time”. Substance layers tight drum sequences alongside sleigh bells and rimshots, an uplifting track that compliments the dulcit tones and inventive wordplay of JB, with a great hook to boot.
“I fire lessons into orbit and take note, i meditate daily, escaping the scape goat, i don’t sniff using 50’s and fake notes, go ask my mum and she’ll tell you i’m a great bloke”
‘Hypertension’ is a highly energetic number with great pacing and some slick cuts courtesy of DJ Jaffa, a standout track on the release that gets extra marks for dropping ‘Mochi’ and ‘Molly’ in the same sentence. Great building beat work and hype feeling throughout. ‘Next Hype’ flips some schmaltzy Jazz samples and punchy drum patterns, leading into the titular ‘Alpha Ego’ which rounds off the EP. It features classical big band samples and a droning hum of a b-line completely cut to pieces by Risk 1, fantastic stuff. Another interesting fact about the release is that the entire EP was fleshed out in it’s entirety in just over a two week period, so what started off as one song (Alpha Ego), organically grew into the four track body of work.
This is a finely crafted release from the seasoned multi-genre duo, taking inspiration from Hip Hop, DnB, Dubstep and turning it into classic boom bap, a quick-fire selection of songs that’ll wet your appetite for their entire back catalogue, some great sounds here, beat work and cuts, real rap for any audiophile.
‘Alpha Ego’ is out on all digital channels, grab your copy now.
As always these are just my opinons but what did you think of the EP from the Cardiff based duo, Tweet me your thoughts and recommendations.
Words by Theo Specone